7 Nutrition and Exercise Myths…BUSTED! – BioTrust Radio #1

Written by Tim Skwiat and Shawn Wells

Welcome to the first episode of BioTrust Radio, our brand-new weekly podcast dedicated to answering your questions related to health, fitness, nutrition, and supplements so you can get better results, faster! In today’s show, Shawn and Tim help set the health and fitness record straight by busting 7 popular nutrition and exercise myths.

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What Popular Fitness Myths Do You Believe?

When it comes to nutrition and fitness, it can be an incredibly confusing and downright frustrating world. There’s hype, fads, scams, and flat-out lies. As your trusted, go-to health resource, Shawn and Tim cover some of the most common and pervasive exercise and nutrition myths.

In this episode of BioTrust Radio, Shawn and Tim answer questions like:

  • What’s the best type of cardio for weight loss?
  • How can you use exercise to boost your metabolism?
  • Is sodium bad for you?
  • Does dietary cholesterol increase blood cholesterol?
  • Does saturated fat increase blood cholesterol?
  • What is the “bliss point” and how do processed foods drive overeating?
  • What are the real “bad guys” when it comes to nutrition?
  • Is margarine really healthier than butter?
  • Is canola oil healthy?
  • Is coconut oil dangerous? Assets

We’ll cover these burning questions and much more. Enjoy!

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Have a comment or question on this episode? Comment below.

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Show Notes—Transcript

Shawn: On this episode, Tim and I are going to get into something good. We’re going to talk about myths and myth‑busting. We’re going to get into things like high-intensity interval training versus low-intensity, slow-go cardio. We’re going to talk about things like sodium, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, eggs.

All these things, like high-protein diets, “Are they dangerous?” And we’re going to talk about all these things that we keep hearing about in the news. Basically, since the 70s, a lot of these beliefs have existed, but are they true? Is that what the science really says? And sometimes even respected bodies of researchers and professionals are putting out this information, even now, creating more confusion to you, the listeners, and the BioTrust community. We’re going to get into some really good myth-busting, so if you’re ready, here we go.

Tim: Sounds great, Shawn. Let’s start with an exercise one. How does that sound?

Shawn: Okay.

Tim: We typically hear from people about cardio. Most of the people that we’re talking to, from a coaching standpoint, are interested in weight loss and overall health, so they know that exercise is an important component of that formula. They think that they need to do hours and hours of cardio in order to lose weight and support heart health. So, let’s dig into that. Is that the best recipe for fat loss and health, or there are other options?

Shawn: There’s definitely other options. So, that typical cardio, what I would call cardio, is low‑intensity, steady-state exercise. Now what that means is maybe you’re working out at 40-50% exertion and you’re keeping the same pace the whole time. Think of jogging, being on a treadmill, or using a stair-stepper. Even going for a walk is lower intensity. And yes, it’s good to move. I think it’s good. Yes, you’re burning calories, and yes, a body in motion stays in motion. It’s good to use your body, especially if you’re concerned about being low-impact and all those kinds of things. But there may be a better way to achieve body composition changes, whether it’s building muscle, burning fat, and then optimizing your time. So, that would be high‑intensity interval training, and I think you’re an expert on this. But I would certainly say that—I’ll just throw this out there—that changes really only happen in the body when you push the limits, and then adaptations come because you pushed the limits and the body says, “Okay, hold on, what’s happening here. Like this is really extreme. We need to adapt. We need to mobilize these fat stores. We need to create more muscle. We need to do things, make drastic changes here because this is some serious stuff that’s happening.” I mean, that’s the way I think of it.

Tim: I think that’s a great way to think about it, and I think there’s a few different layers to peel back here. Let’s maybe talk about the cardiovascular benefits, or the heart health benefits, of exercise. Martin Gibala and his team of researchers at McMaster University in Canada have done a lot of research on this because time is an extremely important barrier for people to age and exercise. What he and his team and many other researchers since then have examined—Abbie Smith-Ryan at North Carolina is another one who comes to mind who’s looked into the high-intensity exercise—they’re trying to overcome this “time” barrier, so what can we do in order to derive some of the same health benefits that we would from the low-intensity exercise. For instance, the American College of Sports Medicine has traditionally recommended 30 minutes of low- to moderate-intensity exercise every day, so 150 minutes or so a week, in order to maintain heart health. That’s a lot of time for a lot of people.

What Martin Gibala, Abbie Smith‑Ryan, and other researchers have been doing is looking at this high-intensity exercise. So, high-intensity interval training, like you talked about, is basically interspersing periods of very vigorous activity. So, if we were to subjectively rate our intensity, our level of effort on a scale of 1 to 10, typically exercising at like an 8 or 9, anywhere from 20 seconds to 2 minutes, and then taking a period where we’re less active. So maybe that’s walking, or even sometimes could be sitting down, but basically a recovery period. And that recovery period could be anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes, again. Basically, it’s switching between vigorous exercise and less vigorous exercise, and you would repeat that. It depends on your fitness level, but it could be four times, it could be eight times, it could be ten times. That’s just kind of a general background on what that is. Well, what they find is that you can get the same cardiovascular benefits, the same metabolic benefits (in terms of insulin sensitivity and things like that) in a fraction of the time. We’re talking about 10 to 20 minutes of weekly exercise, instead of hours. So, there’s the health benefits there.

Shawn: Right, so what would it be like for someone who’s fairly sedentary? Maybe it’s walk to jog, where the majority of the time you’re walking, but you have periods of jogging where you’re taking it up a notch and you’re trying to do it as long as you can, where you’re really hitting that wall and then you go back to walking, and then go back to jogging. But if you’re maybe someone who’s fairly active, maybe it’s jog to sprint, where you’re sprinting all-out and just go until you’re gassed, and then you go again. It’s amazing. You could do low-intensity, steady-state, like we said, for hours. You could just go take a walk for hours. But try to do this high-intensity interval training, and you’ll be wiped out, potentially in 10 minutes.

Think about it. If you’re on a treadmill or you’re outside and you’re really going all-out to where you’re just panting heavy and you’re sweating and all that kind of stuff, you can only do that so long before you’re just totally wiped out. But again, that’s where changes are going to happen, in that very short period of time. And if you’re thinking that sounds too “intense for me,” here’s the thing that we’re saying: It’s a lot less time. So yes, it’s harder, but it’s way shorter. So save yourself the time and you’ll get more benefit, you’ll get more changes than you ever could just walking on a treadmill. Take a look into high-intensity interval training. Do some more research around it. Talk to your trainer about it. It’s definitely the way to go that I think is the best way.

Tim: I agree. Just one more thing with that, Shawn. Whenever we talk about exercise, I think it’s important that we don’t know where you’re at in your fitness journey, so if you have any questions about whether you should engage in an exercise program, make sure that you get clearance from your doctor.

Shawn: Absolutely. Good point.

Tim: And then one final thing on higher intensity exercise is that another potential advantage, from a weight management standpoint, is that because it does get your body outside of its comfort zone, you’re basically going to elevate metabolism for some time after exercise. So there’s this thing called “EPOC” or “Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption.” You’re boosting your metabolism for hours. In some cases, depending on what type of exercise you’re doing, 24 to 48 hours after exercise. You get a little metabolism boost. I’m not saying that’s going to magically make weight loss happen, but for a lot of people, any boost is a good thing. So, it potentially has a fat-burning advantage, again, in a much shorter period of time.

Shawn: Well, that’s one myth down. So let’s get into some ones that I’m passionate about, as a dietitian, and I think many of my fellow dietitians out there might be misguided on and are maybe misleading some people on using old, old data that’s really just correlative from Ancel Keys, and it is these things like “sodium is bad for you,” “fat is bad for you,” “saturated fat is bad for you,” and “cholesterol is bad for you.” And to all those things, if you’re listening out there and you’re thinking, “Oh my gosh, yeah, all those things are terrible. I try to eat low-salt foods. I try to eat low-fat foods, and I definitely try to avoid saturated fat. Oh my gosh, that food has cholesterol,” I’ll say that all of those things are wrong.

I hate to burst your bubble, and if that really just crashes your whole world, we’ll explain. But all those things are really inaccurate, and it’s unfortunate. What did happen, I will say, with all those things is that Ancel Keys, who in the 1960s and 70s, made some correlations based on data from massive population studies. However, correlation is not causation. That’s an old saying, but it’s very true in this case where these things were associated with poorer health outcomes, especially like cardiovascular health. Why is that? I think one of the big things is that if you go back to those studies and you tease out processed foods, it makes a massive difference. And what we know is that when you’re looking at these processed foods is that there’s the “bliss point” that’s engineered into foods that involves crunchiness, sweetness, saltiness, and oiliness, which make you want to eat more and more, and more, and more. That’s a factor.

Now, maybe having fat with sugar has some issues. Certainly, fat is more calorically dense, but if I’m going to look for the “bad guys,” it would be these things. It would be processed foods. It would be sugar content. It would be overeating, maybe as a result of some of these engineered foods, these processed foods. And then the inflammatory fats, these vegetable fats that are just inflammatory, and those are not the saturated fats like coconut oil or butter. It’s not these things that we’ve been told are unhealthy. It is the margarine, ironically—the thing that we reach for instead of the butter—that was the thing that was actually inflammatory, that wasn’t as healthy.

And then the whole cholesterol thing just drives me insane because dietary cholesterol has almost no impact on your body’s cholesterol or endogenous cholesterol. Certainly eating higher fat can potentially raise some cholesterol, but on diets like the ketogenic diet or the Mediterranean diet, what will happen is that it raises HDL, which is protective. In some cases, it can raise LDL, but it’s a different type of LDL. It’s not the very low-density, it’s not the small dense fraction of LDL, which you don’t get when you normally test the way a doctor tests with HDL or LDL. You have to do something called an NMR test or a VAP test to look at all the different fractions. What it’s doing with LDL is raising the “large fluffy particles of LDL,” which is actually healthy. And what we see time and time again in these studies is if you look at cholesterol, the higher the cholesterol, the better the mortality. The lower the cholesterol, the worse the mortality. So, it’s definitely something to potentially talk to your doctor about. It’s maybe somewhat controversial at this point with cholesterol, but the tides are turning, the data is pretty clear. I think the medical community needs to catch up a little bit, and certainly other dietitians out there.

Tim: Agreed, Shawn. You mentioned sodium and you mentioned processed foods. And when you look at the typical American’s intake of sodium, about 75% of that is coming from processed foods. So people are like, “Well I shouldn’t add salt to my food.” Well, maybe you should check what you’re eating first. We’ve talked about eating more whole foods or having a whole foods-based diet. Once you start to do that, typically you need to add sodium or salt because when you eliminate that 75% (i.e., processed foods), you actually tend to be a little on the low side. And along those lines, people have consistently talked about sodium is bad or salt is bad or they need to go with a lower sodium diet. When you look at the data, a lower sodium diet is probably just as bad, if not worse, than extremely high sodium. Probably somewhere in the middle, if not a little bit higher than what we’ve been told, is probably a good guideline, actually. The low sodium, like I said, that some of the more recent research is showing that that’s probably worse.

Shawn: And particularly for athletes, sodium is like an incredible ergogenic aid, meaning it increases performance. And for everyone to be salt-phobic, and especially athletes, that’s kind of dangerous. I mean, it’s the number one thing that’s depleted from exercise. It’s coming out in your sweat and, yes, you could drink Gatorade or something like that, but getting that sodium back in your system really is going to drastically have an impact on your performance if you’re an athlete.

Tim: Agreed. I mean, sodium is an essential mineral. We need it for a number of functions, like body‑water balance, muscle contractions, and all those types of things. So, it’s really important to have the right amount of sodium, especially like you said, with active people. I know that I’ve worked with several coaching clients who said that they’re supposed to be eating a low sodium diet, and I tried to educate them to add some sodium, a lot of times in the form of like electrolyte tablets, like NUUN tablets. And they’re like, “Man, I feel great.”

Shawn: Yeah, it’s incredible.

Tim: I’m glad that we talked about that. Another one that you had mentioned was cholesterol, and specifically how dietary cholesterol has virtually no impact on blood cholesterol. And to me, one of the most fascinating examples of that is every five years or so, I think it’s the USDA, assembles a committee to come up with dietary guidelines, which are by and large very conservative. Very conservative in that most dietitians kind of use that as a resource. Well, the reason I cite that is because in 2015 they did this massive review and overhaul, and to me this is the most telling example of the fact that dietary cholesterol has no impact on, or virtually no impact on blood cholesterol, is that they said that. That this very conservative committee says that there’s no evidence to suggest that dietary cholesterol has an impact on blood cholesterol. In fact, that is leading to the removal of cholesterol guidelines on nutrition facts panel. I don’t know what it used to be, whatever milligrams per day, there’s no more ceiling for that. It’s not listed anymore because there is no upper limit. To me, that’s a really good example.

Shawn: Times are changing. I’m glad.

Tim: Another one that you had mentioned there was margarine, and I think that’s a really important point to bring up again because that’s been a foundational cornerstone since the 50s, like Ancel Keys’ research is to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats, which is another type of fat. So you have saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat. Basically those three categories of dietary fats. Saturated fats are your types of fats that you find in butter, coconut oil, heavy cream, dairy, and things like that. Polyunsaturated fats are going to be, by and large, in your vegetable oils. And so, we’ve been told for a long time to replace those saturated fats with these polyunsaturated fats, and that’s where margarine came from. So, recently, within the last couple years, I think it was one of the British medicine journals, and there was a meta-analysis conducted. And what they found was that replacing polyunsaturated fats for saturated fats actually led to an increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease and all‑cause mortality, and I’ve seen additional meta-analyses since then. A meta-analysis basically is a collection of all these studies on a topic, so it’s a really intense scrutinization of the body of research. It really gives us a summary.

Shawn: So there was an increase in switching?

Tim: By taking in more margarine and less of those saturated fats actually increased the rate of heart disease and all-cause mortality. So, confirming what we’re saying.

Shawn: Yeah, that saturated fat is a better choice than the polyunsaturated. And canola is everywhere right now, and that’s actually an oil that comes from something called rapeseed, actually. And then it gets heated to extremely high heats to get these oils, and the oils are then oxidized, and then they have to add a bleaching process, and they have to add a deodorizing process to these rancid oxidized oils that are highly pro-inflammatory. So, that’s your choice. You’ve been told for years that canola is so healthy for you. Unfortunately, you go into Whole Foods and almost all the prepared foods are filled with canola oil, which is frustrating. But all these things, like these margarines and whatnot, are loaded with pro-inflammatory fats and not heart healthy, so it’s really led to so much confusion for people, like what’s what.

And then we brought up coconut oil, but that was recently brought up by the American Heart Association as being a saturated fat that’s dangerous, and certainly that has been contested not only by most of the mainstream media and just lay people out there, but many cardiovascular surgeons, many other nutritional medical bodies have raised into question that may be where some funding has come from the American Heart Association from certain groups, and why they might do this. But it does create confusion. And I will say, coconut oil is one of the healthiest things that you can use. It’s an excellent source of MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), which are uniquely metabolized and can elevate blood ketone levels, but it is an anti-inflammatory fat. It’s great for your metabolism. There’s no concern, as far as I see, as using coconut oil in recipes or to cook with. I think it’s a great choice.

Tim: Yeah, I agree with that, Shawn. In fact, when that study came out, we worked on an article for the blog because there were headlines all over the place, “Coconut oil is not healthy and never was.” In that article, we took an interesting stand because we contested that, because like you said, we don’t believe that coconut oil is not healthy. It certainly can be healthy; however, we don’t necessarily think that it’s the only fat you should use.

Shawn: Of course.

Tim: So, I think that by and large people have a tendency to be on one end or the other, so we wanted to provide some middle ground. Because like you said, coconut oil is one of the few foods that has MCTs in it.

Shawn: Yeah, Medium-Chain Triglycerides.

Tim: Medium-Chain Triglycerides, which can boost metabolism, suppress appetite, and lift blood levels of ketones. However, coconut oil may not be quite as rich in MCTs as some other fats. It’s not a pure MCT. There’s other fats and other saturated fats that aren’t quite as short as the longer chain fatty acids. However, those longer chain fatty acids have other benefits, like antimicrobial.

Shawn: Lauric acid and B12.

Tim: Exactly. There’s tremendous health benefits with coconut oil in terms of body composition and overall health, but what we’re just suggesting is that it should be used as a part of an overall healthy diet. It’s not the be-all, end-all superfood, but it is definitely healthy. Again, myth-busted that coconut oils not good.

Shawn: Done. That one’s done. All right, we’re putting some myths to death.

Tim: Drop the microphone.

 

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